Uvalde tragedy prompts Springfield Township to review plans for a school shooting

by Betsy Wallace
Posted 6/16/22

At the June 6 workshop meeting, Springfield Township manager Michael Taylor outlined updated strategies implemented by township police in response to the mass shooting last month at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

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Uvalde tragedy prompts Springfield Township to review plans for a school shooting


At the June 6 workshop meeting, Springfield Township manager Michael Taylor outlined updated strategies implemented by township police in response to the mass shooting last month at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 

Taylor reported that police have increased patrols at township schools, both at the beginning and end of the day, and also have completed walk-throughs of the buildings. Police will continue these practices until the end of the school year, Taylor continued.

The commissioners discussed how the township could avoid the reported failure of communications, the lack of coordination in the chain of command, and the tactical errors that occurred in Uvalde. 

The Local reached out to Police Chief Michael Pitkow with a few questions about the township’s emergency preparedness. His answers are lightly edited for clarity. 

In Uvalde, the police had a problem communicating with their officers inside the school building. Does the STPD have a protocol in place that would avoid such communication problems? 

Beginning in 2010, the police department has had our portable radio communications managed by the Montgomery County Emergency Communications Division. A Montgomery County Field Communications or “FieldComm” truck is dispatched to every critical incident when members of police, fire, and emergency medical services personnel are on scene. The FieldComm truck staff facilitates communications by assisting with command and control among the multiple agencies on scene and is an asset to the incident commander. Our portable radio coverage in schools has been effective.

Have STPD officers undergone special training in how to handle incidents such as a mass shooting? 

All officers have received training in Immediate Action Rapid Deployment through the Commonwealth’s Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission. We also have several officers who are members of Montgomery County SWAT – Central Region Team (SWAT stands for “Special Weapons and Tactics”).  These officers attend required monthly training and they assist in training for the rest of our officers. In addition, our police officers and other municipalities have in the past participated in active shooter training with members of the various SWAT teams in Montgomery County.

Has the STPD command staff attended conferences on best practices and lessons learned from prior mass shooting incidents?  

Command staff, first-line supervisors, and school district personnel attended a seminar in April 2022, entitled “Lessons Learned from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, Florida,” presented by the retired chief of police of the Coral Springs Police Department, Anthony Pustizzi, who led the Coral Springs Police Department’s aggressive response to that massacre.  

On a biennial basis, command staff and a number of first-line supervisors attend the Emergency Disaster Incident Training Symposium, sponsored by the Eastern Montgomery County Emergency Management Group and the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety. 

Does the STPD participate in simulated or “tabletop” exercises where participants discuss the scenarios presented and general problems and procedures in the context of an emergency scenario? 

The police department participates in periodic tabletop exercises in partnership with the Montgomery County Division of Emergency Management.

Does the police department also work with local public and private schools in emergency preparedness? 

The police department has an excellent relationship with the School District of Springfield Township. We are in frequent communication with the superintendent, high school principals, and the supervisor of campus and operations and with the administrations of the parochial and public schools in the township. The district notifies us in advance when they schedule lockdown and run-hide-fight drills, and we participate in them. The Montgomery County school safety coordinator and safety specialist are also included in some of those drills.

What message do you want to convey to township residents, especially parents and children? 

As chief of police, I would like to assure the community that the men and women of the STPD will continue to collaborate with the schools and ensure that we will continue our increased visibility and walk-through program, which we began after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. We will also continue to participate in training and safety drills. Our community policing model includes the guardian mindset, which focuses on protecting the community. The safety of our children is of paramount importance to members of the police department and the school district.

Bids awarded for the 2022 Highway Resurfacing Program 

Bids for the highway resurfacing program exceeded the township’s budget of $364,096.  At their business meeting, commissioners awarded a contract for $404,710 to the lowest bidder, Glasgow Inc., in Glenside.

The township removed three streets from this year’s resurfacing program and will apply $46,546 from the winter maintenance budget to reconcile the resurfacing program budget. The three streets eliminated from this year’s resurfacing (Copley, Montgomery and Lucon) will be at the top of the list for next year’s resurfacing program.

Mermaid Park Project

The board of commissioners awarded Western Lehigh Services a $118,000 contract for streambank stabilization and Ply-Mar Construction Company received a $194,265 contract for the construction of a 6-foot-wide conventional asphalt walking trail along with a 6-foot-wide pedestrian bridge. 

The township already has received Mermaid Park grants totaling $223,000. By requesting separate bids for the two projects and choosing the least expensive alternative for the walking trail construction materials, the township saved a total of $107,000.

Recycling Report – Oil prices make plastics valuable again

Township residents recycled 166.3 tons of assorted recycling materials at a household rate of 76% and at a net cost to the township of $13,435.33. The township is receiving some of its highest reimbursements for plastics recycling in recent memory, due in large part to the spike in oil prices.  

Independence Day Parade

The traditional Independence Day Parade in Oreland is scheduled for July 4 and will start at 10 a.m. Hosted by the Oreland Lions Club and the Oreland Volunteer Fire Department, the parade begins at Twining and Wischman Streets in Upper Dublin and ends at the corner of Allison and Lyster Roads in Springfield Township.  Immediately after the parade, which is scheduled to end at about 11:30 a.m., everyone is welcome to Marlow Field on Enfield Road, near Lyster and St. Clair Roads, for refreshments and the awards ceremony.

Summer in the Park Series

The township’s free summer concert series returned June 9 to the James A. Cisco Park Gazebo. The Thursday night shows are scheduled to start at  7 p.m. (weather-permitting). The concerts are family-friendly and free.  

Here is the lineup:

  • June 16: 309 Express (country/American music)
  • June 23: Smoke and Mirrors (classic rock & roll)
  • June 30: Red Angels (classic rock & roll)
  • July 7: Tookany Creek (bluegrass)
  • July 14: Rain Date

This series is weather permitting. All weather updates will be posted to the Springfield Township Park and Recreation Facebook page.

Township residents can obtain audio recordings of past board workshop meetings by contacting township manager Michael Taylor at mtaylor@springfieldmontco.org. Residents can access all board business meeting agendas, minutes, and recordings on the Springfield Township website, Springfieldmontco.org